Hypertension is a common condition, but it may lead to more serious complications if left untreated. These include heart and kidney damage, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.

Hypertension is also called high blood pressure. It consists of blood pressure 130/80 mm Hg and above.

When you have hypertension, your blood flows with too much force. In some cases, this can even cause blood vessels to burst.

Hypertension can increase pressure or block blood vessels and arteries throughout your body, which can lead to several complications. Some of these involve vital organs, such as your heart, brain, and kidneys.

This article reviews common health complications of hypertension.

Hypertension can lead to numerous complications involving your heart. These include:

  • Angina and heart disease: Angina is a type of chest pain that indicates the presence of heart disease. Hypertensive heart disease refers to changes in the function and structure of your heart. Having angina and heart disease may increase your risk of further heart problems.
  • Heart attack: During a heart attack, arteries in your heart become blocked, which prevents blood flow. Hypertension may lead to a heart attack due to increased pressure against your arteries, causing them to become damaged and blocked.
  • Heart failure: Over time, increased blood pressure makes your heart work harder, causing it to enlarge. When this happens, your heart may no longer be able to pump blood to the rest of your body.

Hypertension can affect your brain by causing a stroke.

During a stroke, blood vessels may become blocked, preventing blood and vital oxygen-rich cells from getting to your brain. In some cases, blood vessels may even burst.

While hypertension isn’t the only risk factor for stroke, it’s a leading cause. Additional risk factors for stroke include:

  • high cholesterol
  • smoking
  • physical inactivity

Many stroke risk factors are controllable with lifestyle strategies, like not smoking and prioritizing physical activity. However, stroke can also run in families.

Having a stroke also increases your risk of dementia. At the same time, hypertension is also considered a dementia risk factor.

A stroke is a medical emergency

Call 911 or local emergency services immediately if you or a loved one have any of the following symptoms:

  • a severe headache that develops suddenly
  • numbness or weakness on one side of your body, such as your face or arm
  • confusion
  • vision problems
  • loss of balance and coordination
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Metabolic syndrome” is an umbrella term used to describe the presence of three or more risk factors for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. These include:

When not managed, hypertension can increase your risk of kidney problems. In fact, hypertension is considered the second most common cause of kidney failure, behind diabetes.

High blood pressure can put pressure on arteries within your kidneys, eventually leading to damage and disease.

Hypertension can also eventually disrupt the way your kidneys filter blood, leading to a backup of toxins that would normally leave your body via urine.

Having both hypertension and kidney disease can create additional issues: High blood pressure can lead to fluid buildup in the arteries in your kidneys, which can then increase your blood pressure even further. This can eventually lead to kidney failure.

Undiagnosed and untreated hypertension may lead to atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. This can then increase your risk of developing PAD.

PAD is a serious condition that affects the arteries in your lower extremities. When you have PAD, your heart can no longer produce blood through the arteries that run to your legs due to blockages from atherosclerosis.

Hypertension can cause PAD, along with other risk factors, such as smoking and diabetes. It’s most common in adults over age 60 years.

Common symptoms of PAD include:

  • pain while walking
  • hair loss on your legs
  • foot ulcers

Over time, hypertension may also contribute to eye problems if it’s untreated or undertreated. Eventually, eye issues from hypertension could lead to vision loss.

The three types of eye problems seen in hypertension include:

  • Choroidopathy: This condition causes fluid buildup underneath your retina, which can cause distorted or reduced vision.
  • Optic neuropathy: Also known as eye nerve damage, optic neuropathy develops when your optic nerve sustains permanent damage from reduced blood flow in your eyes. Destroyed eye nerves can lead to vision loss, which may be permanent.
  • Retinopathy: Also called hypertensive retinopathy, this condition causes blurry vision due to reduced blood flow to your retina. In severe cases, vision loss may develop.

Healthy blood pressure is essential for sexual function. When you have hypertension, you may experience reduced blood flow to your pelvic area, leading to a loss of libido.

Males with hypertension might also develop erectile dysfunction due to blood flow problems. Females may experience vaginal dryness and fatigue.

On the flip side, if you don’t currently have a hypertension diagnosis, you may consider reaching out to a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of sexual dysfunction. They can help determine the underlying cause, including problems with your blood pressure.

Another consideration is the use of antihypertensive drugs. Research suggests that some of them may worsen sexual dysfunction.

It’s important to talk with a doctor about this before you begin treatment for hypertension, or if you’re already taking medications.

Hypertension is often called a “silent killer” because it doesn’t cause symptoms until complications develop. In fact, it’s estimated that 46% of people with hypertension do not know they have it.

Hypertension also develops slowly, with complications happening over a matter of years. The exact time frame is highly individual.

The key is to detect blood pressure problems early and take steps to manage it throughout your life.

You can help prevent hypertension-related complications by taking steps to manage your blood pressure.

First, regular blood pressure readings are critical in diagnosing hypertension. The American Heart Association considers a “normal” reading as less than 120/80 mm Hg. If you already have hypertension, treating it with medications can also help reduce complications.

Additionally, a doctor might recommend the following lifestyle strategies:

Hypertension is a common but serious condition that can increase your risk of several health complications.

It’s important to get regular checkups with a doctor talk and take blood pressure medications as recommended.

Managing your blood pressure can help reduce the risk of hypertension-related complications, such as heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.